It’s five weeks until the start of the 2018 season, which means we take a look at Kansas’ fifth opponent: Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks will welcome one of the Big 12’s most consistent squads in the conference for its homecoming game.
Oklahoma State vs Kansas (Homecoming)
September 29, 2018, Time TBD
Lawrence, KS: Memorial Stadium (50,071)
About the Oklahoma State Offense
Not many teams had a better offense than the Cowboys last year. Three to be exact, if you go by points per game (OSU averaged 45 ppg). Some of the firepower from that team is gone, as the Cowboys only return 44 percent of its offense. Quarterback Mason Rudolph (4904 yards and 37 touchdowns), and thousand-yard wide receivers James Washington (1,549 yards, 13 touchdowns and Biletnikoff Award winner) and Marcell Ateman (1,156 yards and eight touchdowns) are now in the NFL.
Taking the place of Rudolph is likely Taylor Cornelius, who attempted a whopping 10 passes last year and has backed up Rudolph the past three seasons. At receiver, Jalen McCleskey (645 yards and five touchdowns last season) and Dillon Stoner (576 yards and six touchdowns) are competent and proven receivers capable of taking over the group.
But the Cowboys do have one of the best running backs in the country returning. Justice Hill racked up nearly 1,500 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns a season ago and is back to be the rock of the offensive unit with moving parts coming in at the other skill positions.
About the Oklahoma State Defense
As strong as the offense was last year, the defense was more vulnerable. The Cowboys gave up 29.4 ppg last season, good for 85th in the country out of 130 teams. In OSU’s three losses in 2017, the defense gave up at least 44 points in each game.
The Cowboys aren’t returning much more than the offense in terms of production (54 percent) and have a new defensive coordinator this year, Jim Knowles from Duke, who is switching to a 4-2-5 defense. Six players return to the defensive line, including Jordan Brailford, who had 57 tackles (11 for loss), five sacks and an interception. Justin Phillips will lead the linebackers with 63 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year, and while both cornerbacks return (along with Bryce Balous and wide receiver turned cornerback Tyrell Alexander) Oklahoma State has to replace both safety positions in a secondary that already has question marks.
It’s hard to say whether the Cowboys will have the same offensive firepower this season without its star QB and top receivers. But even if they don’t score 58 points on the Jayhawks like last year, Justice Hill will ensure the Cowboys put up points. And a potentially improved defense could make it harder for KU to get going on offense after scoring 17 points in 2017. It’s unlikely there’s a homecoming celebration again this year. Oklahoma State 38, Kansas 21.